Thursday, October 31, 2013

Travel: Longwood Gardens, Part 2

I hope you enjoyed our ramble the other week through Longwood Gardens. We covered less than half of the outdoor space then, so today we will see a little more.

We will be exploring the area west of the Conservatory. This section of the garden is noted in the black circle of the Longwood Outdoor Garden Map below.

This past July I was there, so most of the photos in will be from that visit.

The main walk to this part of the garden is a tree-lined path. On a hot summer's day, this shady path is quite refreshing, especially in contrast with the large open lawn of the Main Fountain Garden.

The path leads to the modest-sized (compared to the gardens!), ivy-covered Peirce-du Pont House, where Mr. du Pont lived with his family. You can take a tour through the inside and see how it looked while he lived there, as well as view displays that tell the history of his gardens.

But you don't want to linger there too long. There are gardens to be explored.

Flower Garden Walk

In this spectacular garden, the show is all about the blooms. It was actually the first garden du Pont planned and built. The long straight walk features flowers organized by color: blues, purples, reds, oranges, yellows, whites. The blocks of color create amazing impact. I had hardly finished ooh-ing and aah-ing over one color when I was gobsmacked by the next.

(Sorry that the quality on some of these pictures is not the greatest. I had to switch to my cell phone camera because the other had run out of battery.)

The picture doesn't do the color justice. These purple blooms were stunning!

A long view of the purples and blues.

Here you can see the reds transitioning to oranges and yellows.

The yellow blooms were particularly stunning---probably my favorite. I love these neat little soldier rows of feathery blooms contrasting with the gorgeous yellow topiaries.

More yellow. I had no idea I loved yellow flowers so much.

Aren't these gorgeous?? There were bright purple ones at the other end of the garden. I think they are some kind of double-bloom  Lisianthus. Possibly my new favorite flower!

The view from the white garden looking back towards the yellow. You can just see the orange and red blooms and the central fountain.

Looking the other way on the flower walk. The elegant, circular stone bench is a wonderful, cool place to sit and rest your weary legs. And the bench has fun secret. If you sit on one end of the half circle and your friend sits on the other end, you can whisper to each other and the sound will travel through the bench. :)

Pierce's Woods and Lake

Leaving the elegant blooms of the Flower Walk, the path leads you to Pierce's Woods and Lake. Subdued elegance after the showy blooms, but a majestic forest and tiger-lily edged lake features trees, some of which are part of the original 18th Century arboretum.

I just love this view. It seems so natural, yet it has been so cleverly and beautifully laid out. There is symmetry with the two extending branches reaching in, the back curve of trees contrasting with the perpendicular curve of the path going into the trees. The symmetry is balanced with a gorgeous, low-hanging bush creating a slightly off-center focal point. 

Beautiful canopy of Pennsylvania forest. The effect of dappled light from an overcast day coming through the trees makes this feel like an enchanted forest.

My camera cannot capture the height of this gorgeous cypress tree.

The tiny people on the bridge gives you a sense of the scale of these trees. Having lived in Mexico and then Texas for most of my adult life where short trees are the norm, I am always stunned at the beauty of truly tall, majestic old trees. Strangely enough, tall trees are one of the things I miss most.  If you live in a place with abundant rainfall and temperate climate, take a moment to savor the beauty of the trees around you. :)

While this end of the garden seems more like a beautifully landscaped park, Mr. du Pont didn't forget to give us a show-stopping feature even in this subdued end of the garden.

Italian Water Gardens

This, my friends, is a proper Italian water garden. If you don't know exactly what that is, I highly recommend watching Monty Don's Italian Gardens. (I could not find a DVD version available in the U.S., but you can currently watch all four episodes on YouTube.) du Pont's Italian garden is quite small, and coming at the end of the very naturalistic landscape of the park, it does strike me as slightly out of place. But I enjoyed discovering all of the features, like the little gargoyles along the edges and the elegant, curved cascade of water steps.

Leaving the arboretum, the path curves back toward the main gardens. It takes you down a corridor of majestic Cypress. I have never been to Longwood during the fall when the leaves are changing, but I have seen pictures and it is stunning.

Even in summer, however, when the leaves are dark green, it feels as though you are walking through a verdant cathedral.

A patio to sit and enjoy the view of lawns, edged by the Cypress on one side and the Flower Walk on the other.

These elephant ears were huge! See my mom's head helps to demonstrate the scale. ;)

The Rose Garden and Topiary

Although there is much more to see in the west gardens, our path is bringing us round toward the main entrance. First, there is a romantic patio with climbing roses and wisteria arch, which were past bloom. The path takes you through several smaller gardens, such as the peony garden which I have yet to see in bloom.

Finally, what garden would be complete without a Rose Garden and Topiary Garden?

Longwood's Rose garden, though fairly simple in design, had such robust, healthy blooms when I was there (kind of sounding like a theme, isn't it?). So many times I am disappointed by rose gardens. Of course, I know that "to everything there is a season" and certainly roses are not long-lasting blooms. But it is rare to see such full, healthy blooms over the entire rose garden.

The display gardens really are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the result of round-the-clock work by hundreds of gardeners and volunteers and tireless researchers. Visit Longwood's website to find out many more details.

I hope you've enjoyed the virtual tour, and
I hope it inspires you to visit if you ever have the opportunity!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Discussion: Chapter 19-24

These chapters make me feel so sad.  Jane is such a sweetheart, and to see her suffering--especially so patiently--is just heartbreaking. Elizabeth's anger is quite cathartic for me.  She expresses what I feel....disbelief, then wanting to slap Bingley upside the head. :)

And much as she had always been disposed to like him, [Elizabeth] could not think without anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that want of proper resolution, which now made him the slave of his designing friends, and led him to sacrifice his own happiness to the caprice of their inclinations. (Ch. 24)

Jane is, however, the yin to Elizabeth's yang (or yang to her yin??? I never get these straight); I think many readers (especially modern ones?) find Jane somehow morally weak or unlikable because she doesn't get angry at Bingley or because she doesn't want to blame him. I don't. I find her "sweetness" truly "angelic" , and like Elizabeth, it makes me love her more. I love how she always assumes the best in people.What strikes me is that both Jane's way of responding to hurt--assuming the best in the other person, assuming that she was the only one that misread the situation--is as much a coping device as Elizabeth's response of feeling angry, looking to assign blame someone, spending hours thinking about it and trying to figure out why it happened:

"It was a subject, in short, on which reflection would be long indulged, and must be unavailing. She could think of nothing else; and yet, whether Bingley's regard had really died away, or were suppressed by his friends' interference; whether he had been aware of Jane's attachment, or whether it had escaped his observation; whichever were the case, though her opinion of him must be materially affected by the difference, her sister's situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded." (Ch. 24)

There is wisdom in both, I think. Sometimes it is unhealthy to bury our feelings and not acknowledge when we feel angry or hurt; on the other hand, dwelling on it can lead to bitterness, as Jane wisely points out:

"My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness." 

I am definitely inclined to react like Lizzy in similar situations. I get frustrated and angry, start to analyze the situation to figure out whose to blame. It gives me a kind of satisfaction, a way to deal with the feelings. On the other hand, my husband definitely has Jane tendencies. :-)  He is quick to assume the best of others and is more likely to say that the problem was caused by him misunderstanding the situation. He also will be quick to tell me, "My dear Lynnelle, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness."

And then when I logically and clearly argue that I am exactly right in my assessment of the situation...
"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost anything, but no one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding than I now do of her heart. My dear Parke, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man: you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who marries him cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger security for happiness."

He tells me,
"I must think your language too strong in speaking of both,...and I hope you will be convinced of it by seeing them happy together."

An then usually, we are better off just changing the topic of conversation:  "but enough of this...."


Ha, so of course we've never had a conversation exactly like this! We don't typically quote long passages of Austen to each other. :-) But in a different context, with different words, these characters and situations really to play out in our lives. This is part of Jane Austen's genius and why so many of us love her novels.  As she enthusiastically exclaims in Northanger Abbey,

"It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language"

Anyway, back to Jane & Lizzy/ yin & yang. I love this line too:
Jane: Woman fancy admiration means more than it does.
Lizzy: And men take care that they should.

And this one...
but without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people's feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business.

That one really hits home for me in a serious way. I feel that I have probably hurt people, not because I intended to, but through "thoughtlessness" and lack of attention to their feelings. :(

There's a reason that an entire genre of relationship books based on Jane Austen exists--the "everything you need to know about love, you can learn from Jane Austen" category. :-)

Besides their reactions to hurt, Jane and Lizzy's experiences of love & courtship in this novel are a kind of yin and yang as well. That's all I'll say about that, so I don't get a head of myself. :) In the end, I think that we need both Janes & Lizzys in this world for balance and sanity. I really like the in-depth exploration of the close relationship between the two sisters.

I could comment on so much more....Mr. Collins proposal, Charlotte and her choices....but I will leave that for all of you to discuss. I'm looking forward to reading your comments. I apologize that I am slow to respond to your comments sometimes. I certainly do understand that life is busy. :) And please don't feel bad if you are not able to comment in the week that I post the discussion. Please feel free to go back and comment or discuss on any previous post.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What would Elizabeth and Emma think of each other?

I've had this crazy thought for a year or two now. I know it's entering into the realm of Austen fanfiction (which is not normally my thing), but...

What would Jane Austen's heroines think of each other?

Would they like each other? Would they get along?  Who would be better friends with whom?

Elizabeth Bennet
Marianne Dashwood
Elinor Dashwood
Fanny Price
Catherine Morland
Emma Woodhouse
Anne Elliot

For those of you who have read all the books (or seen all the movies---though it doesn't count if you've seen Mansfield Park but not read the book! I've never seen a movie Fanny Price that was anything like Austen's Fanny Price!), what do you think?

I've always thought that Austen's heros would pretty much get along. They all seem to be cut from the same cloth (although Henry Tilney might be slightly annoying to Darcy just a little bit, if he got into one of his "moods"). But the female characters seem so strikingly different in some ways, that I'm not sure.

What do you think?

For the sake of this question, I'm going to assume we're talking about the characters more at the beginning of their stories rather than the end. Here's my two cents:

While I don't think they would completely dislike each other, I don't see Emma and Elizabeth becoming fast friends. I think Elizabeth might be slightly annoying to Emma. I'm not sure why. Maybe not--since Emma does get annoyed at reserved people, and Elizabeth certainly isn't reserved.

On the other hand, I think Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot would be great friends. :) I think Elizabeth and Anne would really appreciate each other as well. Elizabeth's close relationship with such a sweet, kind person as Jane makes me think she would really like Anne as well. I think Anne would appreciate Elizabeth's liveliness. But then again, who would  the sweet Anne Elliot not like (on this list, of course)??

The end-of-novel Fanny Price would be a great mentor to Catherine Morland. Of course, so would everyone on the list except for Marianne Dashwood. Ok, and Emma too. Emma would not be a very influence on Catherine. She has too much of the wild imagination in her. I think Catherine and Marianne would be good friends--or at least good enough to enthrall each other with stories of romantic attachments.

This has become an especially interesting question to me now with the modern adaptations that Pemberley Digital has done and is currently doing. They've essentially created a model where all of their JA stories are happening "in world." So, for example, Emma in Emma Approved uses software that Darcy's company, Pemberley Digital, created. Emma, Lizzie, Jane and all of the other PD characters are living in the same world and theoretically could meet and know each other.

There are a lot more pairings I could discuss, but I want to hear what you think. Do you agree or disagree with my assessments? What do you think about the other possible pairings? Who would be especially good friends? Who might find the other person uninteresting or annoying?

Thanks for indulging my bit of fantasy fanfiction! :-)

For me, Kate Beckinsale plays the perfect Emma.
 Perfectly snooty, yet still charming and irresistable. :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pride & Prejudice Discussion, Chapters 13-18


It struck me while reading this week, that over the course of the opening chapters, besides seeing that different characters demonstrate different levels and kinds of pride in their actions, there is a string of characters who give their opinions on pride in conversation. I wanted to gather these in one place. These perspectives all seem to be focusing on the question that Jessica pointed out in the first discussion post: Is pride ever appropriate?

Mary: (she actually doesn't really give an opinion on pride; rather she defines it for us)
"Pride, observed a very common failing I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us." Ch. 5

"His pride...does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favor, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud." Ch. 5

"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride--where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." Ch. 11

"How strange.... how abominable! -- I wonder that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! -- If from no better motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest--for dishonesty I must call it." Ch. 16

"...almost all his actions may be traced to pride;--and pride has often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than any other feeling....

It has often led him to be liberal and generous,--to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride, for he is very proud of what his father was, have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister; and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers." Ch. 16

Surprisingly, most of these characters are answering the question--is pride ever appropriate?--in their conversations with a resounding 'yes' (Elizabeth is less resounding, but she admits the possibility of it).What I am wondering now, is that in terms of how the story plays out, are there any examples of pride being appropriate. In other words, these characters are talking about pride being ok in certain instances, but when it comes down to their own actions, or someone else's, do they ever in that moment judge that pride to be appropriate? So far, I haven't seen examples where a character judged another person's pride to be appropriate when it is directly affecting him or her. But perhaps I am missing something?

In Charlotte's case, she is fine with Darcy's pride because it didn't actually affect her personally. Elizabeth, however, is not fine with it, as she honestly admits: "I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine." Ch. 5

Darcy  has yet to be personally affected, either positively or negatively, by someone else's pride.

Elizabeth, for the most part, has disapproved of pride in others (Darcy, Caroline, Mr. Collins); however, she admits the possibility of a case where Darcy's pride might be appropriate (above) and she also does not take her own pride very seriously. She turns it into a joke.  In her conversation with Wickham, her knowledge of Darcy's pride now makes his actions toward Wickham surprising and inconsistent. Even without doubting the truth of Wickham's story, she points out this inconsistency, which is a great tribute to her intelligence. Of course, her prejudice against him allows her to be satisfied with no clearer explanation of his motives.

Wickham tells us that Darcy's pride is the only motivating factor in his life. Everything good that Darcy does is because of his pride. Wickham appears to be giving proof that, indeed, Darcy's pride is appropriate, or has at least led to proper behavior. Darcy's unjust behavior toward Wickham is due to "stronger impulses even than pride."  I guess Wickham is hinting that jealousy was the stronger impulse, though he never explains that fully. At this point, we've just met Wickham, so we have no idea how he would respond when his pride is hurt.

For someone like Elizabeth, who considers herself to be a good judge of character, it is interesting to see how much she bases her analysis of people on first impressions. Because Darcy insulted her and his manners are not as charming and inviting as Wickham, she dislikes him. But she has no qualms about believing Wickham's story, even claiming that he gives her all the "facts." In reality, Wickham's story has very few concrete facts when it comes to the details of how and why Darcy denied him the living. And if Darcy really did completely ignore his father's wishes and refuse to give Wickham this living, as Elizabeth notes, the only way to describe this is dishonesty. But up to this point, if there's anything we've learned about Darcy (besides his pride), is if there is one thing he abominates, it is dishonesty. Darcy is painfully honest---to the point of insulting all of his new neighbors as well as his best friend!  If Darcy has a fault, it can't be dishonesty....unless Austen has been tricking us this whole time about Darcy's character. Although we are supposed to see things through Elizabeth's perspective much of the time, I think Austen wants us to see, at this point, that something doesn't jive with Wickham's story.

Getting back to the topic of pride, I think that Austen is going to show us that none of the characters who claim that pride is sometimes appropriate will, in reality, approve of that pride when they are personally affected by it in someone else. We are quick to defend our own faults as not so bad (Darcy saying that pride will always be "under good regulation" or Elizabeth quipping about Darcy offending her pride--she is making a joke, but is not really seriously considering the fact that her pride may be coloring her judgement about the people around her), but when we see those same faults in others, it is very easy to condemn them and much more difficult to forgive.

With Mr. Collins, Austen illustrates another facet of pride: ridiculously foolish pride. Mr. Collins, as a comic character, is just brilliant. He definitely gives Mrs. Bennet a run for her money. :) Here we have the extreme example of what Darcy accuses Bingley of in chapter 10: the "appearance of humility". Except Mr. Collins' false humility is so obvious that no one (except Mrs. Bennet and her sister Mrs. Phillips) is deceived by it.

Finally, a few thoughts on the Netherfield Ball. Poor Elizabeth! I love the line at the end of Chapter 18: "To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit." However, I think her perception of her family's embarrassing behavior has actually been exacerbated by her increasing attraction to Darcy. Yes, I know, I'm going out on a limb here. :) She can't stand him, of course. But clearly his opinion about her matters to her. If you don't care about someone, you won't really care what they think of you. (For example, Mr. Collins. Elizabeth could care less what he thinks of her). I think that Emily was definitely on to something in her comments on last week's post. Here is where I think we see Elizabeth's attraction to him especially clear. With Wickham not there, she is focused on Darcy almost immediately (though it is anger, not a more positive feeling). When he asks her to dance, she is flustered and doesn't know what to say. (She is fully able to say no to Mr. Collins later on and she was fully able to say no to Darcy's asking her to dance at the Lucases and at Netherfield before.) When she can't talk Mr. Collins out of introducing himself to Mr. Darcy, she watches the whole conversation feeling mortified: "It vexed her to see him [Mr. Collins] expose himself to such a man." Why was she vexed, when she used to always laugh at Mr. Collins' foolish behavior?  She can't stop watching Darcy during dinner, and indeed, during the rest of the evening! Every silly, foolish thing that her family does, she views from his perspective and how it will affect his opinion of her: "Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation. She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy, though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded." After Mary sings, Elizabeth again looks "at Darcy, who continued however impenetrably grave." I think that later on in the evening when the narrator says "she was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy's farther notice; though often standing within a very short distance of her quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak," I don't doubt that Elizabeth is "rejoicing"--however, I also find it ironic that the entire time she is "rejoicing" that she is "free" from him, she seems to be more aware of him than ever, watching his every move. This is chemistry and sexual tension every bit as compelling as Jane Eyre's and Mr. Rochester's. ;-) Before Mr. Darcy, I think Elizabeth would have laughed and been amused at her family's foolish behavior as much as Mr. Bennet continues to. She even boasted about that to Mr. Darcy at Netherfield. But now, she cannot laugh at all.

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I am a little late responding to your comments from last week's post, but I'm going to do that in the next day or two.

Also, if any of you would like to do a guest post to start off our conversation, I would love that. Just let me know in the comments! I will be at a conference in Boston November 5-11, so if someone would like to take the post for November 11th (or 12th...I won't judge since I've been late twice in a row now ;-), that would be super helpful. That week we will be discussing Chapters 31-36, and those are some good ones!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Travel: Longwood Gardens, Part 1

Sometimes it's easy to overlook what is in your own backyard. So today, I'd like to tell you about mine. Ok, not literally my backyard (I wish!!), but one about an hour or so from where I grew up.

If you're ever traveling in South Central Pennsylvania, in between the bucolic farmland of Lancaster County and the historic landmarks of Philadelphia, you'll find one of the most beautiful gardens in North America: Longwood Gardens

Besides its beauty, it has historical significance as one of the oldest arboretums in North America (begun in 1798), a world-renowned display garden and horticultural education program, vibrant public arts, theater and musical performances, and a commitment to both innovative and sustainable environmental practices.

In 1906, Pierre S. du Pont, a U.S. wealthy industrialist and philanthropist with a keen interest in horticulture and sustainable agricultural methods, bought the arboretum to preserve its trees from being torn down. He ended up transforming the land into a magnificent set of private gardens with strong Italian and French influences. In the 1940s the gardens became a separate non-profit organization and du Pont set up a system that would keep the gardens open to the public and provide for the long-term financial and horticultural success of the land.

Frankly, if you love gardens, Longwood is pure magic. Thanks to the fertile soil, temperate climate, abundant rainfall of the Chester County Valley, and the excellent horticultural practices of the gardeners at Longwood, a plant there is not just a plant, but the healthiest, most vigorous and beautiful specimen of that plant you've ever seen.

I try to visit as often as I can when I am home. Several years ago, I gave my mom an annual membership to the gardens for Christmas (which is a fabulous deal if you live close enough to visit regularly), and she has renewed it almost every year since. It's one of our favorite mother/daughter activities.

Every season has its charms. Though pictures do not do justice to the beauty of this place, I hope that I can tempt you to make the effort to visit.


The most striking feature of the garden is a massive glass conservatory that overlooks the gardens. I think it covers something like four acres. You will first enter two large, central exhibition halls. The plantings in these halls are changed seasonally.

Christmas is an especially spectacular time to visit. Below is the Longwood Christmas display from a few years ago. Every year they present a completely different Christmas theme and plantings, so it is never the same from year to year.

You can be sure, however, that whatever they do, it will be done with exquisite attention to detail and to gorgeous effect.

Off the central exhibit halls, there are long corridors with smaller, distinct rooms that feature plants from various climate zones, such as Mediterranean, desert, temperate and tropical, as well as rooms which feature various families of plants, like orchids, bromeliads, roses and even an incredible collection of Bonsai, that include some over 100 years old.

The conservatory has an open-air water lily garden in the center courtyard (only open in the summer, obviously).

The water lily collection includes the amazing Victoria amazonica,  better described as a water platter. :) Their leaves are huge, 3-4 feet in diameter (in these photos) and can apparently grow to 9 feet in diameter.

If you've walked the half-mile path through the Conservatory, and you still have energy for the outdoor gardens, there is plenty more to see. Fortunately today's virtual tour will be sore-foot-free! :)

Outdoor Gardens

The outdoor gardens are extensive, and they continue to develop new ones. I will highlight just a few of them.

Main Fountain Garden

Standing on the terrace of the Conservatory, you will get a fabulous view of the Main Fountain Garden. This large, formal water garden, built in the style of Italian and French Renaissance water gardens, definitely impresses most when the fountains are on.

 It's difficult to get a shot of the entire garden without a wide lens camera. The picture above represents about three quarters of it. Essentially, the Rococo arches form a backdrop for an expansive green lawn divided into symmetrical geometric patterns created by formal boxwood borders and elegant fountains. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have the fountains on very often. This past July was the first time I had ever seen a fountain show and it was spectacular. However, I believe I saw signs indicating renovation and restoration work was going on, so it may be that once they have completed work on these fountains, they will be able to display them more often.

Descending from the Conservatory terrace to the main garden level, follow an avenue of beautifully clipped maple trees to the gardens beyond.

Idea Garden

Taking a right off of this avenue, you will come to the Idea Garden

This gardens consists of rectangular and square beds with plantings that change every year. Usually, the beds present ordinary plants in creative or interesting ways. For instance, this year they created incredible formalized plantings with coleus, begonias, impatiens and other plants more typically used in containers and front yards.

 Although I probably wouldn't plant my front yard like this, I absolutely loved this display--particularly how they created  lovely pattern, texture and color with unexpected plantings.

Vegetable Garden

From the Idea Garden, looking back towards the Conservatory, you will see the Longwood Vegetable Garden. Not only do they grow vegetables, fruits and herbs for their restaurant here, but it's a great example of a utilitarian space planted in a way that is also aesthetically pleasing.

On your way back toward the avenue of maples, there is a traditional mixed border garden.

While some of the earlier spring flowers like the peonies were faded, the mounds of phloxes, lilies, black-eyed Susan's, and a bunch of other flowers I don't remember the names of, were a lovely informal and slightly messier, let-your-hair-down contrast to the geometric beds in the Idea Garden.

Chimes Tower

Back to the avenue, now beyond the Main Fountain Garden, the path gently curves though lovely rhododendron, gradually descending, giving you glimpses of an ivy-covered, stone turret.

Suddenly, the view opens up to a lush, romantic vision of a stone tower nearly hidden and reflected in a lovely pool. Unfortunately, there is no ruined castle to explore, but the Chimes Tower Garden, which you can climb, gives lovely views across the garden.

I like the lines of these very tall-stemmed yellow day lilies contrasting with the evergreens behind them and the stone wall and tiny blue flowers in front of them. I love how lush and full these plantings are. But mostly I just love all of the green--the bright vibrant greens contrasting with the grey-greens and blue-greens. I really, really miss green. (Texas is not green. At least not like this.)

Well, I think that perhaps we'd better take a break with this garden tour.  This post is getting a little long and there is still so much more to see. :)  We've seen some highlights from the west side of the garden, so we will explore the east side next time.

Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

If you have suggestions for some fabulous places to visit in your backyard, let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your recommendations. :)